Food photography taught by a pro

Yesterday afternoon, 14 Boston food bloggers met at Gary Tardiff’s culinary photography studio for a little seminar on food photography. I felt so lucky to be able to talk and learn from a pro like Gary. He was so passionate about his work and I was day dreaming there for a moment about what it would be like to have his job. 😉 But anyways, here is a little recap of the whole day – I had a fantastic time and learned quite a bit. Let’s get to it!

So we all met at Gary’s studio around 2pm and got down to business straight away. Gary wanted to make the session as interactive as possible, but he also wanted to cover some basics. Bloggers listening intently…


Gary had a chance to look at some of our blogs before meeting us, and mentioned that one of the most common mistakes he saw was out of balance white balance. I know my pictures definitely have that yellow tint to them when I take pictures indoors. I find it to be quite warm and at time fitting, but it’s definitely not always intentional. I’m still intimidated by my super fancy camera and by relying on the automatic mode, I am definitely letting my camera make all the choices – not me. Gary actually talked about that as well – he said he often shuts the auto-focus on his camera because he wants to be forced to do the right thing. He briefly talked about exposure, aperture, shutter speed – again the message was to play with your camera and find the perfect exposure for every picture. Food doesn’t move (usually) so you have a chance to change settings until you get it “just right.”


Gary’s other “motto”:View with your eyes, not your head. He said we so often get emotional about what we see and overlook important details. On vacations, we may be so excited about finally seeing that waterfall, that we don’t realize our composition is completely wrong for that picture and we are not doing the setting justice (ps. – this was not the example he brought up – I’m just relaying the message). You can’t re-take that picture when you get home, so viewing with your eyes instead of your head will avoid awkward pictures you will regret later. Same goes to food – maybe you LOVE the plate you put your cookies on but the plate is washing them out and it’s all wrong for that particular photo. If you look at the photo and get your emotions about the plate get in the way, you overlook these details. Learning to train your eye to be critical over your pictures, instead of letting your head get in the way, will improve the quality of your pictures (you still have to do the work but at the end you’ll likely end up with the photo just the way you intended it to be…).

I guess those were the few messages from Gary. We then got a little tour of the studio. It’s also clearly about having the right props!

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How jealous is everyone of you bloggers about Gary’s plate collection?


We were practically drooling over this stash… and these are his extras! His clients usually supply whatever he needs for the photo shoot.

Gary is also constantly on a lookout for different woods – he found this guy on a side walk somewhere. It sure would make for a beautiful rustic background…


His food photos were all over the studio. Definitely pieces of art!


And then we got to work! A few girls brought some food we could all practice on. Adrienne’s sourdough loaf was our first victim 😉





Action! Oh wait, we need to set it up first…

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Light from the back, shining through a vellum lined frame (for a softer glow), a few tweaks playing with shadows…


And voila! (Gary’s picture looked much better, this was just a quick one from me)


We did a similar set up for Kelly’s granola filled jar


This one was a little more advanced because the clear jar would disappear in the background if you’re not careful. That’s why Gary added the black paper for the jar to reflect off something – see how the edge on the left is defined? The mirror on the left also brightened up the front of the picture by reflecting the light that was coming from the back. It was all super educational to see his thought process in action!


One more quick set up with Jen’s m&m cookies


Gary’s version of the picture…


I learned so much! I don’t have this cool set up at home, but I think I am much more aware of light manipulation, shadows, etc…. and I need to learn how to use my camera so that my white balance and exposures are perfect! Lots and lots to learn and nothing makes it better than practice. Good thing I eat every day so there are plenty of opportunities for that 😉

We mingled a bit after the lecture and enjoyed some yummy treats. Jen’s cookies finally met their fate…mmm cookies


Sophie brought some light Pavlova cookies


And Lauren shared some of her homemade granola with us…


I was starving and this little handful was perfect to tie me over until linner (lunch/dinner) :)


14 food bloggers united!!

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Nicole, Lauren, Shannon, Cara, Jen, Kelly, Adrienne, Sophie, Jen, me, Kerstin, Chels, Mary Kate and Sues. Phew!

Thank you Kerstin for organizing this and thank you Gary for donating your time and knowledge to all of us. It was an amazing experience and I am even more motivated now to work on my photography and food styling skills so that I can make all my readers extra hungry! 😆

PS. Gary, I see that Tatte is your client. Do you get free nut boxes?? I’m infinitely jealous! 😀

What would you ask a professional food photographer?

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